26/4/17There is something quite magical about standing on the top of a hillside at 2am brushing your teeth in the moonlight. The crisp night air and a sky of the darkest blue filled with stars. There was not a sound but for the crackling of the fire when my partner rushed into tell me that it was snowing! It is the very first time that I’ve experienced this up on the hill and although it had been so cold that we couldn’t feel our fingers and toes all day it was still unexpected at almost the end of April. But there we were surrounded by a beautiful crunchy layer of white snow, totally pure and sparkling peaceful and quiet. We took the dog out for his nighttime walk. He was thrilled. His Mama and Daddy wandering around and rushing up and down the garden whilst he ran and rolled and ate the snow he was in heaven eating it and prancing about. One happy pup we went back indoors to warm ourselves up and hoped that the power would not fail us in the night, we would need the electric blanket. Unfortunately all the cameras were dead by then so we only got a couple of pictures by torchlight.
I checked the weather report again last night and saw there’s a possibility of Thundersnow. Our boy would love it.
Our journey up here was interesting to say the least. Our darling boy came on the longest trip he had ever been on in the car. He hated almost every minute of it and was very distressed crying and whining. He did not understand that it would be alright when we arrived. He wanted cuddles and reassurance it with his Mama in the front and him in the back it wasn’t possible. At nighttime he didn’t like the traffic noise of the lights of the vehicles behind us. It was a long Journey anyway it made all the longer by stress and tiredness.
As we reached the border we were met with a beautiful red and orange sky, following the contours of the hills and mountains with silhouettes of the trees and occasional building or cottage.
Higher than our current landscape set way above our heads the colours did not reach all the way to the road ahead of us.
It’s ethereal light creating another world somewhere above ours where all was at peace. Our own route now being cast into the darkness as we travelled onwards, but yet we were bathed in this warm orange glow. It warmed the soul sending shivers down my spine. “Look at that Sky!” he said to me. I am, I answered my voice almost hoarse with emotion tied up in a truly beautiful experience. Taking us away from the situation we have been in and leading us hopefully towards the next step. The orange sky like a molten sea coming down through the hills that night pooling into lakes with pine trees all around as we reached the border and our welcome to Scotland. The smile spreading across my face, heading home at last.
There is something about this time of year which I cannot explain. I don’t cope very well in the cold and it is usually the coldest month of the year, when the bitter winds blow and you cannot feel your face. In the last few months I have suffered with tremendous pain in my ears and throat on a regular basis and as yet unexplained. I was told that it was eustachian tube disfunction and prescribed something for it but it didn’t work. So I resort to plugging my ears with cotton wool every time I leave the house.
So in the coldest time of the year, why am I missing our beloved Scotland so much. True, for the past four years we have spent either Christmas or New Year and sometimes both up in Scotland, braving the cold and enjoying the scenery. It felt normal to us to be there. It was where we went for Kato’s holiday and this year we didn’t. This year we had Roki who hasn’t got used to travelling yet so has no desire to take such a trip. We hope that in time that will change. Oh I do hope so, then we will be able to show him our wonderful piece of heaven.
Meanwhile maybe because it was Burns Night a couple of weeks ago and there is a plethora of Scotland on our TV screen is what is making me homesick. I know that it is totally impractical at present but I was looking wistfully at jobs there earlier today.
I have been cooking these past few days. Things which I do not usually make and have enjoyed it. I haven’t been well this week, none of us have so this is my way of helping us to heal. By preparing food wholesome comforting winter food. I was also thinking of making marmalade again. I haven’t done for a few years now I used to make orange and ginger and add brandy for a bit of hooch. It was nice.
I am missing the hill and all of it’s little oddities. I know that I could not stay there in this cold weather. We would freeze and so would our water supply which would be difficult up there. I am craving the time when we are able to go there at will whenever we wish and do not have to rely upon friends for water or baths.
I am missing the trees, the wildlife and the light which brings me peace and calms me and it is this that I am thinking of tonight again as I cannot sleep. Yes I am tired. But for some reason I am wide awake and thinking of our sanctuary once again. He talked about the beautiful burn which he filled with stones for me, so that the water would run freely through it and we would not be overrun with mosquitoes. It nearly killed him as so many things almost did that year. He wanted to do it for me, to surprise me. I am glad I brought him home in time. He was ill that year too collapsing with blood poisoning a week after his return due to an infection in his jaw.
We have a supply of wood, but this time of year I know that it would not last us very long. I am conscious that it would not be easy to replenish it despite all the trees that have fallen. My first foray with a chain saw this year does not exactly qualify me to log 150 foot pine trees, I would need a much larger saw than we have and I still have not fitted the log burner in the other room or repaired the chimney. There is so much to do and now is not the time to do it. Yes I would need a team of helpers. I don’t have any.
I am constantly amazed at the people who can turn their hand to anything. I am a creative person and I also have a practical nature but my tools are old and a little basic and my knowledge is sketchy. I am willing to learn and give almost anything a try. I have thought of opening up the place to helpers far and wide and offering food and board in return for help to get our house fixed up but he will not entertain the idea. He doesn’t want people tramping all over our private place. He likes the solitude that it provides.
We have a select few friends I there, who do not encroach and are always welcomed when they arrive.
I wonder, Is the dream moving farther away as the years go by? Seven years this year we got this magical place and I thought back then that we would’ve been well on our way to having it sorted out. In truth we are such a long way off, not much nearer to the goal. Although at least the majority of the ground is cleared and we can see what we have now.
We have been reevaluating these last few days. Trying to figure out what is the best action to take. A step in the right direction to make some progress and changes for he better. We are undecided as to whether our southern lifestyle needs to drastically change but personally I feel that it has to. A move might be on the cards this year and this would not be an easy task. It is also likely to cost us financially and we are not set up for it despite my best attempts I am no nearer to getting full time paid work. All this time later, I still do not have my head above water which makes me hesitant rush in and do it all over again, I need to find the right job, which pays the bills without a shortfall.
Since I have adopted Scotland as my true home over the past few years, is it any wonder that I am missing the place again already. I do have Scottish relations going way back, so it’s only fair to feel that it’s in my blood. Yes the wee one has settled in here down South for the time being and is behaving as though he can do what he likes along with the sulks and tantrums of the “terrible twos” when he doesn’t get it all his own way. He will learn that even if you are a Malamute it doesn’t mean you have Carte Blanche to do as you please and house rules have to be followed. With an adopted pup though, there are going to be testing times, but on the whole he is settling well.
But I cannot deny, even though it’s only been a month since we came back that am missing our special part of our Scotland and our friends there and cannot wait to return. Although I know that I would not fare well up there at the moment now that it is so cold. It is cold here too now, suddenly this week, but heard from my friends there it was really cold. When a scot tells you that, then I know I wouldn’t be able to feel my toes for all the winter clothes I have.
Meanwhile friends old and new in Scotland and beyond, of you are doing anything remotely Scottish to celebrate this day, then I raise a glass to you and wish you a Happy St Andrews’ Day and invite you to soak up some of the wonderful culture wherever you may be.
On this trip, we have concentrated mainly on refilling the wood supply, not working on the house or garden, we have also in the past week, an extra week which we had not anticipated and I was extremely grateful for, we have ventured out visiting places nearby in the car and exploring our surroundings. In the summer months, we have not done this much as our time is better spent working here.
Being surrounded by woodland, we would not have thought that we could run out. But unfortunately, the woodshed was cleared by thieves whilst we were away and we had to scout for wood, some of our neighbours and new friends have really helped us out, in return, they have some wood which once cured, will be usable. There is plenty around here, except that it is not dry enough to burn or cut in most cases.
One of our new friends who hauled the Bears, both big and small out of a ditch two years ago when they had been run off the road. Has become a friend who is currently stood out the back chopping wood so that we will have a supply again when we return. He has been an absolute godsend to us, since our large logs were too big for me to manage with the small chainsaw, I had no hope of splitting them. I learned to use the chainsaw, having bought all the kit, for safety I was finally allowed to give it a go, only to find that the saw had been wrongly assembled and the chain was totally blunt, which is why it was a complete nightmare. Our friend serviced it for me and I was then able to use it and spent a happy day cutting up logs which was very satisfying.
We also hauled some trees down and put them in the woodshed to cut next time. Give it another chance, hope that they won’t get it in again and that it will still be there next time we return.
The wood pile is now awesome with our combined efforts and in return he will also have wood for the winter. It has been pointed out to us on this trip, that wood is such a valuable commodity and should not be given away lightly. We have been told that the price of firewood when you have to buy it is £100 per tonne. If you leave it laying about, people will make the journey just to take it, thankfully our cottage is not easy to get to, but nevertheless, we are not immune.
One thing we are still torn on is whether we should bring the log burner with us next time to install. It would really keep us warm here, but I guess it depends on my partner’s health and whether we have a horsebox in which to transport it. It probably weighs 20 stone, definitely takes two very strong people to lift it, but would be absolutely wonderful in the living room here. We were talking of furniture this trip, and he almost weakened to a sofa for the lounge, but we really need to fix the roof first. A leaky roof is more important. But I am working on ways to fix that.
Today we got some boards, the guys on a local building site gave them to us, little do they know that we could probably fix the main part of the roof with those, if only I could get up there with the ladders!
We have been given pallets, offered wood offcuts and people have also offered to deliver what we need to us quite often free of charge. The generosity of spirit has often caught us by surprise and right when we least expected it has renewed our faith in humanity.
We have been blessed with the kindness of people around us. Whilst others’ may seek to take advantage and have their own agendas’ if we can keep them at bay, then we will get on here just fine. We are choosing our friends more carefully now, rather than my old approach of taking people at face value until they do you a wrong. We have learned to tread a little more carefully here in Scotland, it is easy to get your wires crossed and an English sense of humour is often misunderstood but generally we have found that if you are good to people, then they are good to you.
Yesterday evening as the sun was setting we went for a drive to Largo. It was where we spent a lovely Christmas & New Year in a rented cottage after the roof came in up here. I have fond memories of us all three, running along the beach. Kato skipping over the huge rocks like a mountain goat, when in other places he could trip on a pebble. My partner and I hand in hand walking along the sand.
I have a photo I took of them when I wrote Happy New Year in the sand on the beach when the tide was out. Yesterday was different, I wrote a tribute to our Kato in the sand as the sun had gone down and the houses in the background were lit up like Christmas. We still walked hand in hand and combed the beach for driftwood. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, but I felt like being creative.
So this afternoon, with a couple of hours to spare, I decided that I would make beach combed sculptures. You know the type that rely upon gravity to hold them into place. Inspired by the stone sculptures held together just by their position in river beds, with the water gushing past.
We have a wonderful brook alongside our house, my partner built it for me and lined it with stones, so that Kato could play safely in the water of what was once a mosquito infested ditch. It is now a pretty stream thanks to his efforts.
So I set about positioning the driftwood and a few beach pebbles that we collected yesterday, I also found a few interesting shells.
I wondered how I would leave them, but knew that I would have to photograph them. The mantelpiece seemed like the perfect place. It is a stained hardwood top with a rough plastered white painted chimney breast behind it, which I thought might make a good backdrop. Unfortunately I didn’t do this until the evening, so the only light in here is from an overhead bulb which created some shadows which I wasn’t always grateful for. However generally I was pleased with the end result.
The one thing that was unexpected was that it got the imagination going, I could the shapes like animals in the wood, an alligator, a sheep, a whale, a Dragon, can you see any of them too?
I thought I saw a wolf, a man showing you something inside a hole and some strange sea creature.
I saw a strange lizard and there is a shell, which has almost worn away, which has a small pebble firmly lodged inside it.
I left the sand on the shells and the logs, the logs were still damp from the beach and were drying out when I brought them back. I tried to Balance some and was intrigued by the wormholes.
This was my drift pile before I assembled them, pretty uninspiring and it’s surprising what you can do when you make the effort.
The photos below were just the same one piece of driftwood.
When I came to position the stones, I hung them precariously over the edge, they did not fall, I stood a family on the top, I imagined a mother, a father and a dog, at first it looked a little like the third person, but I repositioned it to better signify our family.
I looked at the father stone, a close up of this showed a mournful face, as though crying out. It signified to me the grief Kato’s Dad has experienced in the past three months since we lost him.
It’s strange how the imagination can bring emotions to the fore. As we have almost come to the end of our break here, we are not looking forward to returning South. It has been hard to be in our house without our Little Bear here in the flesh, remembering all of the things that previously we enjoyed as a family here. But, we are planning things for our future however long or short that may be. We are planning a future in Scotland. More time spent with the friends we have made there, would be a blessing. We have met some lovely people on this trip, spent time with old friends who have been pleased to see us and made some new ones along the way.